"Death of a Salesman": What Does Willy Loman Sell?

In the play Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller avoids mentioning Willy Loman’s sales product. The audience never knows what this poor salesman sells. Why? Perhaps Willy Loman represents “Everyman.” By not specifying the product, audiences are free to imagine Willy as a seller of auto equipment, building supplies, paper products, or egg beaters. An audience member might imagine a career linked with his/her own, and Miller then succeeds in connecting with the viewer.

Miller’s decision to make Willy Loman a worker broken by a vague, unfeeling industry stems from the playwright’s socialist leanings. It has often been said that Death of a Salesman is a harsh criticism of the American Dream. However, it may be that Miller wanted to clarify our definition: What is the American Dream? The answer depends on which character you ask.